Sunday, April 10, 2011

Savagery for stupidity: a bad trade

Terry Jones, a Florida pastor who famously threatened to burn a Koran last September 11th, made good on that threat on March 20, 2011. As proof, he videotaped it and put it on his website (I’m not putting that link on here). Jones and his followers pronounced the Koran “guilty” of “death, rape, torture of people worldwide whose only crime is not being of the Islamic faith.” (It has long been a crazy conservative tactic to blame the book.) Jones said that he has no desire to be in an anti-Islam movement. That is like someone saying that he has nothing against my husband and me, and then setting a match to a photograph of us. Jones is old enough to realize that it’s what you do, not what you say, that matters.

The world media ignored this event for the most part, except for the wire service Agence France-Presse. The news of the Koran burning eventually reached Afghanistan, and after that angry men ran amok, resulting in the deaths of 24 people, including seven UN workers.

Burning a Koran is lame and pointless. First of all, it’s far from the only copy – you can’t kill a religion by destroying a single so-called “holy book.” Second, it’s needlessly provocative. I am an atheist, but I know I won’t bring people over to my side by burning a Bible.

If I did, though, how responsible would I be for what happened next?

Jones said he was not responsible for the riot deaths in Afghanistan. He is right. Why couldn’t those Afghan Muslims have thought: “Well, an American jackass has burned a Koran. So what?” We can only be responsible for our own behavior (unless we are mentally ill); we cannot be so for that of other people, whether it be those in front of you or those on the other side of the world. Stupidity is bad enough, but to respond with savagery is like setting fire to a pyramid of feces. (If you’re reading this during a meal, pardon me for the gross imagery – but it is so fitting, isn’t it?)

Evolve already, people.

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